Is every new project like returning to university?

icon__calendar 2020-10-30

Let me introduce my guest

The numbers are impressive; my today’s guest has 18 years of experience in the SAP industry. She graduated in Finance and Accounting master’s degree and had used to work in Accounting for 7 years before she got to know the first system from SAP. It was the turning point.

About the main benefits of using SAP S/4HANA, new features introduced recently by SAP that are worthy of attention, and also what are the challenges that consultants who work with SAP FICO face – Svetlana Yancheva-Rakadzhieva is interviewed by Jarosław JZ Ziółkowski.

Reading time: 6 minutes

1. A few months ago, my colleague Ola –  talked to several women in the SAP industry about their motivation, challenges and so on. I wonder how you feel in the IT industry, which seems to be dominated by men?

Honestly, I find it amazing to work in a male-dominant environment. I discovered that it gives endless possibilities for women in the IT industry. We successfully complement men in their skills, while men learn from our unique perspectives and better social and emotional sense. Yet it was challenging for me at the beginning of my tech career as I had strong financial skills, but lacked  technical competencies, so I strived to catch up with men’s skills. However, this fact drove me to close this gap, yet it took years to master both accounting and tech knowledge. I believe that, even if they start from a junior role, go through key creative roles and finally reach management roles, women end up being more and more appreciated, sought out and competent in these roles.


2. However, you have not been a part of the IT industry from the beginning of your career. You hold a master’s degree in finance and accounting and you have worked in this field for some time. How did your adventure with the ERP world begin?

After 7 years working in Accounting, an SAP implementation project began in one of my previous companies. I felt a passion for ERP, as I started to understand the logic behind integrated processes and appreciated the benefits it brings to the business model. Then I realized that I am not that interested in Accounting, but instead I found myself fascinated by the new technology of having all business functions centralized and automated in one place. So I took the big shift and applied for a new job as an SAP Consultant in Coca Cola. I felt right at home when I joined this new world in 2003. Even after 18 years, I am still fascinated by the diversity in the SAP world, opportunities, cultures, and constant learning of not only technical but personal qualities. Learning to stay positive and tolerant while consulting gives me an amazing feeling while helping customers, users and junior colleagues every day. When I was a small girl, I dreamt of being a teacher like my grandmother. Now I feel I partially accomplished my dream *smile*.


3. Well, I am curious about how your previous experience helped you to find yourself in your current position?

My financial background helps me learn tech aspects easier and understand the IT part faster because I know the expected outcome in finance. With the years, I learned that to be a great SAP FICO Consultant, it requires holistic knowledge in many SAP applications and other departments, like logistics, production, sales, etc.

All these integrate with Finance, so it is effortless to learn other SAP Modules once one knows finance and accounting, for which one needs to study 5 years in university.


4. Most of your career, you have been working as an SAP FICO consultant. As we all know, SAP FICO is part of the accounting function of SAP ECC. However, I am wondering – what challenges do consultants who work with these SAP modules daily face?

SAP FICO Consultants face lots of challenges like understanding the integration with all the SAP modules, which touch Finance and Controlling. One needs cross-functional knowledge to be able to analyze posting logic and track the configuration in other SAP functionalities and further translate it to a non-tech language to business people: accounting, controlling users, tax authorities and auditors.

So it’s not enough to learn SAP FICO, we need to have cross-tech skills in all SAP functionalities plus financial expertise, which makes us SAP FICOs “bilinguals” in the SAP world. *smile*


5. Okay, so tell me what are the main benefits of using SAP S/4HANA from your point of view?

S/4HANA brought simplification, which is one of its best advantages. This is particularly significant since it reduces issues with reconciliation, as we have now one source of truth. FI and CO related transactions are saved as a single line. Therefore there are no more long days spent in reconciling Finance and Controlling modules as they are now merged in one. Reporting is facilitated due to one single source of the true Universal Journal.

Also, faster data processing saves time for accountants, especially during FI month-end closing tasks when time is precious.

With S/4HANA we have new standard functionalities to split the variances and cost of goods sold.

We can now enjoy FIORI applications – an intuitive User Interface, which ensures better speed and faster reporting than SAP GUI.


6. Let’s talk about projects. During our first conversation, you mentioned that every SAP implementation project gave you the feeling of being back at the university. Is each project really that unique?

The SAP and Tech industry evolve very fast, and I am neither ever bored nor stuck in one place. That’s what makes the IT world so exciting for me. I find that each project is really  that unique, as it never repeats and you have unlimited opportunities to challenge yourself every day.

A huge advantage of being an SAP consultant is that you meet many different cultures, visit new places and gain new friends all over the world,work with new companies and find new industries. That’s exciting, and I am constantly learning while exploring and striving for innovations. Now, after 17 years in the SAP, I feel like I participate in a space adventure as SAP grows, and we rise upwards on the scale of time and experience.


7. I am bursting with the following questions. Which of the new features introduced recently by SAP are worthy of attention in your opinion?

One of the biggest and most curious topics: SAP Machine Learning Library evolved; we can enjoy SAP’s intelligent Robotic Process Automation as part of SAP S/4HANA.

Something very interesting to me is  the new holistic Transportation Management on S/4HANA

In Controlling we got Margin Analysis and Universal Allocation.

SAP provided new enhancements in Manufacturing, like Predictive Material and Resource Planning. Also, innovations in Sales & Marketing, in the Automotive industry, extended Warehouse Management, a completely new component called Last Mile Distribution for SAP Direct Distribution, In-House Repair Service, Dangerous Goods Management. In fact, there are so many new functionalities, that I could not list all of them.


8.  I asked because you have been working in this industry for nearly 20 years, so you have probably witnessed many changes so far. Which of them do you think are the most significant in retrospect?

I would mention a few SAP technologies, which I find are the most exciting for me during recent years: S4/HANA, Cloud solutions, Machine Learning (Artificial Intelligence), FIORI. I find that these are incredible innovations in the industry.

9. Last but not least, after so many years in the SAP world, aren’t you considering a change? What is it in this world that it cannot get boring?

No, I am curious and still hungry for SAP adventures, so I don’t consider leaving. The fascinating part of SAP is the designing part, especially when some new SAP features are available. Today, I am part of an S/4 HANA Green Field implementation and enjoy deep diving in all SAP modules as part of the architecture phase. I am happy as I have the freedom to play with the system, test and suggest solutions not only in FICO but in other modules which integrate with Accounting. Besides, SAP consultants are often on the road and sometimes travel very intensively, and it gives additional charm to this job.

My personality is cosmopolitan, and an SAP job gives me a chance never to get bored and never to stop.

Still, there is remote access to the system, which means it’s almost irrelevant where you’re located ? you could be at the customer office, in our office, at home or even at the beach.


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